JOHANNESBURG, June 10 – Springbok captain Siya Kolisi heaped praise on his teammates after watching his side complete a remarkable turnaround to beat England 42-39 in the first home Test of the year at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Kolisi admitted to a case of nerves after England’s fast start saw them race out to a 21-point lead with just a quarter of the game played.
The Stormers flank “didn’t expect” such a scenario and the silence of the home crowd could serve as an indication that the packed stadium also failed to see the early onslaught coming.
While thankful for a few experienced heads around him, he praised the newcomers for their influence as the Springboks played themselves back into the contest, even grabbing the lead before the break.
“Credit to the new caps, because they didn’t panic and showed they just wanted to play, so we decided to take control of the game and it worked,” said Kolisi.
Recalled stars Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux scored on either side of a brace from debutant wing S’bu Nkosi in the first half to send the Springboks in front while in the second period, Aphiwe Dyantyi got himself a try on debut to complete a dream first outing.
“Everything came together for us, the nerves were gone, we managed to get into sync and do those things that we know we can do well. We obviously would have wanted to start better today, but the character the guys showed was amazing,” added Kolisi.
Coach Rassie Eramsus cut an equally relieved figure as he secured his first win of the year as he echoed his captain’s sentiments.
“It certainly wasn’t the start we wanted in our first Test at home and I was worried, because we had a lot of young players against a very experienced England side,” said Erasmus.
“It certainly could’ve gone from bad to worse, but credit to Siya (Kolisi), Duane (Vermeulen), Beast (Mtawarira) and Handre (Pollard), our senior players, for getting us back on track.”
Erasmus, however, knows there is plenty of work to do ahead of Saturday’s second Test in Bloemfontein.
“We only scraped through in the end and we made too many errors, so there is a lot for us to work on,” he added. ANA